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PAGE TWO  THE MOUNTAIN EMPIRE BULLETIN  SEPTEMBER 1, 1936

EARL OVINGTON OF FIRST AIR MAIL FAME PASSES

QUIT REPORTER'S JOB IN 1910 TO BECOME BLERIOT AVIATOR

[[image - black & white photograph of Earl Ovington]]
[[caption]] EARL OVINGTON [[/caption]]

This is an authentic story of the early career of Earle L. Ovington, pioneer aviator, who died in a Glendale hospital on the night of July 21, 1936.

Earle L. Ovington was the eldest grandson of Edward Judson Ovington, the founder of "Ovington's," a famous gift shop, on Fifth Ave., New York.

He was born in 1880. In 1904 he received a degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but instead of seeking a career in that field became a reporter on a New York daily newspaper instead.

Ovington first became interested in aviation while reporting an aviation meet at Belmont Park, in October 1910. It was at this meet that Claude Grahame-White, a famous English aviator, wrested the Gordon Bennett speed trophy, first won by Curtiss, at Rheims, France in August 1909, from America.

For two months after the Belmont meet it is said that Ovington could think of nothing else but flying. At night a pillow placed on each side of him, representing the wings of a Bleriot monoplane, [[type cut off]] another pillow between [[type cut off]] his first [[type cut off]] flights."

Later that year Ovington enrolled in the Bleriot school, at Pau, France. There, ridiculous as it may seem, his "bed-time" flying exercises stood hin in good stead. After only two sessions he was able to take to the air for a short hop of five hundred feet, and shortly thereafter received his F.A.I. brevet.

Brought Bleriot to U. S.

Before returning home Ovington bought a racing type Bleriot monoplane, and had the tiny cockpit fitted with all of the latest aids to aerial navigation possible at that time. The equipment included a cylindrical map holder, an electric speed indicator, a level indicator, an aneroid barometer, a recording barograph, and floating compass. The latter was mounted on the floor, between the aviators feet.

Shortly after he returned to the United States Ovington made some sensational flights during the course of an aviation meet held at Waltham, Mass., in June, 1911. James V. Martin, another noted pioneer flyer, also flew at the Waltham meet.

Ovington was an active participant in the biggest aviation event held in the United States that year, the ten-day Chicago aviation meet, and was one of the big prize winners. By this time he had acquired, in addition to his Bleriot monoplane, a speedy Curtiss biplane.

On August 12, at Chicago, in his Curtiss plane, Ovington placed second against Beachey, in a six mile trial heat. That same day, in his Bleriot, he defeated T. O. M. Sopwith, in a 20 mile monoplane race; won a 14 mile race over Lake Michigan, from Sopwith in 17:13, and was again second to Beachy, in a 20 mile biplane race.

Raced Beachey, Sopwith

Throughout the remainder of the meet Ovington could never overtake the skilled Beachey, and placed second on all events in which Beachey and himself were entered; but he did outfly and outplace every other machine in the monoplane contests. He flew the fastest lap of any one during the meet, his time for the 1 1/3 mile being 1 minute and 22 seconds.

The aerial voyage, for which Ovington became most noted, was flight with a bag of mail from the flying field at Garden City, L. I. to Mineola, L. I., six miles distant. Ovington and Captain Paul W. Beck, a Curtiss-trained aviator were sworn in as aerial postmen by Postmaster-General Hitchcock and both completed, within a few seconds of each other, the first air mail flights ever to be made in the United States.

On this occasion Ovington flew his Bleriot monoplane, Beck flying a military Curtiss biplane, of the pusher type. In addition to a sack of mail Beck also carried the Postmaster-General as a passenger. Soaring over Mineola both aviators, sill in the air, pitched their mail pouches overboard, the mail falling at the feet of William McCarthy, the Mineola postmaster.

Ovington had arrived at Mineola first, and was accordingly honored as the first aerial postman. Captain Beck was killed later that year at San Antonio, Texas, when he swerved his plane quickly to two competitors, cross-country from Boston to Nashua, N. H., Providence, R. I., and back to Boston. For this feat he received a prize of $10,000.

Entered Hearst Contest

Ovington was one of the pilots who were entered in the competi [[type cut off]] William Randolph Hearst in [[type cut off]] for the first coast to coast flight [[type cut off]] The rules of the contest stipula [[type cut off]] that the flight be made in thirty days. The purse was never won, although two flyers, C. P. Rodgers and Robert Fowler completed flights which required many weeks over the time limit. James J. Ward, flying a Curtiss biplane, gave up the attempt after a flight of but several hundred miles from New York, and Ovington's effort was of even shorter duration. Leaving Nassau Blvd., in his monoplane, on the morning of October 8, 1911, he crashed within a few miles of his starting point.

Until the time of his death, in the summer of 1936, Ovington maintained an active contact with aeronautical matters. In 1931 he owned and was flying his thirteenth plane. By this time he was engaged in the real estate business at Santa Barbara, owned the Ovington Air Terminal there, and had taken up yachting as sport. In 1931, also, Ovington was elected president of the "Early Birds," an organization, whose membership is limited to aviators who began flying prior to the World War.

Navy Planes Move
WASHINGTON, D. C., Feb. 1 1912 (E.B.) -- All navy flying equipment, two Curtiss and one Burgess-Wright hydroaeroplanes, have been transferred from Annapolis to North Island, San Diego, Calif., the Navy Department announced today.

The Curtiss machines are fitted with powerful 75 horsepower motors, and have the steering gear arranged so the wheel may be shifted from one aviator to another while in the air.

The first tests of this type of machine were made over Lake Keuka, Hammondsport, N. Y., during the summer. On one trip Lieut. Theodore G. Ellyson, with Captain Washington I. Chambers, officer in charge of aerial activities for the navy, as a passenger, made a nonstop trip of 40 miles.
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